Creating a smarter swaddle with Hindi Zeidman through her company The Ollie World
Describe your business in a few words?
It all started with an amazing infant named Oliver. I was a single foster parent and he was my foster son. When he came to me he was on the verge of being labeled failure-to-thrive because he struggled with the basics of eating and sleeping. He was also exposed in-utero to drugs, so he was truly having such a hard time. With my background in working with drug and trauma exposed infants, I knew the importance of swaddling. I bought every swaddle on the market and nothing worked for him. They did not contain him or his joints properly, he overheated, and he escaped them all. So, I set out to make my own and one that could meet all of Oliver’s needs. And, that is how I created the very first Ollie Swaddle. Once Oliver started using it, I saw such a dramatic change with his eating, sleeping, developmental milestones, and attachment. My goal has always been to have a positive impact in the lives of little ones.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
My father ran his own business, so I saw a lot growing up and “business owner” was never a pathway I intended on walking down. It wasn’t until I was a single foster parent raising an infant that things changed for me. It was truly seeing the change in Oliver, my foster son. I saw him being able to settle for this first time in his life and to be able to do such things as take a bottle, sleep, or just be able to make eye contact, all of which he struggled to do prior. Seeing those changes in him was what inspired me to share the swaddle with little ones all over the world.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I was a social worker, with a specialty in infant mental health.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
When I look back to me as a child, I can see that I was always trying to invent something or sell something. I used to keep “potions” under the sink because I thought they were some magic cure for something (sorry mom). So, I guess, deep down, I always wanted to create something for the world.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
I launched the business with absolutely no plan. I thought people would see my belief in the product and that would be enough. It wasn’t. Please don’t get me wrong, the belief is what kept me going when every single person told me “no”, but it didn’t sell anything for me. I did cold calls, appointments with stores and buyers, trade shows, and no one would give me the time of day. Everyone said I could never compete with the larger swaddle brands. It wasn’t until I turned to social media, specifically Instagram, that moms gave me a chance.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I could write a book about the mistakes I have made. And, please know, the years in business don’t take away the mistakes; I just now make different ones. I am currently in one of the most challenging times of my career. I made a decision to reject several orders of fabric because they failed my spec. I care so much about the quality, integrity, and safety of every product we make, so the decision was an easy one. The result has been an extended time of being out of stock, as we make up for the failed fabric. As you can imagine, it is not easy to run a business without inventory, but there is no doubt in my mind that I did what was right.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
There will never be a time when I am not affected by someone sending a DM, comment, or email about how The Ollie has impacted their and their little one’s lives. That is what motivates me to keep going. I have one particular story that I think about all of the time, if I can please share with you:
I would love to introduce you to Ray, who is an almost 3 month old amazing little boy. I cannot show his picture because he is a foster infant, but I would still love to paint a picture. Ray is living with his foster-to-adopt mom and they were both having a hard time. Ray could not be soothed, their attachment was struggling, and his foster-mom was exhausted. Ray was being seen at SART, which is a local center that provides a trans-disciplinary team approach to address and support drug and/or trauma exposed infants and children from ages 0-5. We donate ollies to all SART centers and Ray received his ollie in the clinic, where he was being seen. Immediately, right after wrapping Ray in his ollie, he calmed. With tears in her eyes, his foster-mom said she had never seen him stop moving and they had their FIRST eye-to-eye contact. Ray’s foster-mom said, “Since using the swaddle and learning what you are teaching me, he has begun to grow and is sleeping and learning new skills. You and The Ollie saved my life, I was so sleep deprived. Thank you.”
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I love to ask people how they set boundaries when it comes to work and how they “leave work at work”. It is so important for people to not take the mental load of “work” into the home environment. So, I want to encourage and support people in having, setting, and keeping healthy boundaries.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We’ve all been and continue to be affected by the pandemic. It has changed everything about what businesses look like and how we conduct business. As we adjust, I anticipate a definite increase in entrepreneurship, not only because we have more ways to connect and reach people through social media, but also as a means of survival as certain job fields or even companies no longer exist. I think how we survive is the question everyone is trying to answer. I don’t have the answer, but I truly believe running a business has to be more about just selling a product; it has to be more about how we connect with people and how we give back to our communities.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Whether that be through new products, donations, working with hospitals, or founding our own non-profit, my hope is to continue to have a positive impact in the lives of little ones all over the world.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
The journey to become a mom and then actually becoming a mom, all while running a business was something that took a toll on me both mentally and physically. I learned about my capacity to keep going, even when everything looks and feels hopeless.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Let go. I read that one of the ways entrepreneurs can fail is by having a lack of ability to let go and delegate responsibilities. That has always resonated so strongly with me. There was a time that I was running the entire business on my own. I did every single job because that was what needed to be done. As we grew, I had to be cognizant of my time and honoring the incredible capable people I worked with to be able to do their work.
Pick your team. I work with great people. They are great and they inspire me to be better. They believe in what we do, they believe in our products, and they believe in my vision. I am committed to them, as they are committed to me. We not only walk through the hard times together, but we celebrate the wins too. Pick the people who are going to walk beside you through it all.
Don’t forget to look at the big picture. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in the daily tasks and you can get too narrow of a vision because of that. Always make time to dream. Always make time to look at the big picture, which should encompass your greatest hopes and visions.
Give back. There is always a capacity to give. I made a commitment that when I started the company, I would always donate swaddles. Even when I had no sales, I donated. Always find a way to give of yourself and give to others.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I don’t feel that I am very grounded. Probably not the right answer, but it is my truth. The world is a hard place to be, we are isolated, we have no outlets… It is so hard to be grounded. Now, what keeps me going is my love for my daughter and my love for the work I do, but I do that as a non-grounded single mom.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Very similar to the question above, yes, I believe in it, but am I currently practicing? No. I understand the importance of that ideal of creating balance; it is just not plausible for me in my life right now. I would love to achieve it one day, so please feel free to send me your best tips.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I am a single mom by choice to an amazing miracle rainbow little one, named Olive Steele.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Get out of bed. That may sound simple, but it can be so hard some days. Getting out of bed is the first step and should be seen as a huge accomplishment.
Make lists. I love lists. I love being able to cross something out because it has been completed. I will even do old school lists on paper with a pen because it feels so good to be able to cross it out.
Don’t be afraid to allow someone to help hold you accountable. Sometimes I need to share a goal or deadline with someone else, so they can help hold me accountable.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Our foundation is rooted in the foster community, so giving back and bringing awareness is a huge part of what we do. We have always donated Ollies to foster infants who are drug and/or trauma exposed throughout our community. And, recently, we created a program to donate children’s masks to foster children. We were seeing that because of the pandemic, people were not willing to open their homes up to foster children, so they were left vulnerable and without a safe place to stay. We were inspired to create masks specifically for them, in the hopes they had their own sense of protection and security, and also with the hope that people would now be more apt to open their homes.